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Autumn flowers and the end of the season

October has been a beautiful month full of mostly dry days and some stunning autumn colours on the trees. It just makes me want to get my hiking boots on and get out for a good walk in amongst all our stunning countryside. In the flower patch things gave gradually started to slow down. The weather has been good but there has not been enough warmth or sun to bring out many new blooms. Having said that the cosmos, scabious and dahlias are hanging on and producing enough for me to cut and enjoy in the house.

Dahlias have taken me by surprise. I thought I would grow a few just to see but did not expect to like them. They seemed showy to me and I thought I liked more delicate flowers. I am now converted! I have loved my dahlias especially the waterlily varieties.

They provide some gorgeous flowers late in the season when other things are tailing off. They have a bit of a reputation for not lasting very long in the vase. Whilst I have found this true of the bishop dahlias, if properly conditioned the waterlily dahlias have lasted a lot longer. Some of my dahlias just were not right for bouquets. This variety yellow passions was enormous and a really vivid yellow, so was just too much to use and would have overwhelmed arrangements.

After learning which types of dahlia last well in a vase and which colours and sizes work in bouquets I have been spending October trawling through specialist dahlia catalogues.  I have drawn up as usual a rather large shortlist of new varieties I would like to grow next year which can be used in garden bouquets and also bridal work. It’s so hard narrowing it down. You think you have your list and then you spot another that you love which is not that different to the others. The trouble is you can’t choose between them so you end up ordering both. Not very business like but it just seems to happen when you love flowers!

This year scabious has been one of my favourite flowers and lasts absolutely ages in a vase. I did plant a lot, many buds emerged, but a disappointing number of actual flowers bloomed. I don’t know whether this was a general lack of warmth or sunshine but I am determined to get more to flower next year. I have the winter to figure it out!

October gives you a chance to look back over the season and see what has worked really well in the cut flower patch. Without out a doubt the calendula and cornflowers were the work horses this year, flowering all the way from May until October. Closely followed by the sweet peas and phacelia.

Of the new flowers I tried this year Nigella was my favourite. It is so unusual, delicate and has the most amazing seed pods. It did not flower for long, just July and August but I think with better successional sewing I will get more from this amazing flower next year.

By the middle of October sales had tailed off on the stall and flower production had slowed down. At this time of year with the stall closed and still a few flowers in the garden it gave me a chance to practice bouquets and enjoy some flowers in the house. We had fun dressing up one weekend to take some mock pictures of the flowers for a wedding.

Last stall of the season  

The girls thought it was a great idea for mummy to put her wedding dress on. It still fitted!  

Finishing selling the flowers also gave me a chance to start the big clear up in the garden. But first I started in the conservatory. I emptied it, scrubbed windows, floors, seed trays, benches and put it all back together. It was a day of hard work but worth it as it is now a much healthier environment for overwintering my seedlings in. Hopefully they will survive the cold, get planted out in Spring and grow into very strong plants. Now I just have to tackle the rest of the garden!

I have finished planting the bulbs, except for the tulips which I will do when the weather is much colder in November. If you plant tulip bulbs too early they are at risk of rotting in wet soil or getting tulip fire disease which is caused by a fungus. The fungus is less likely to spread in cold weather.

October is a funny month with the season growing to a close. It feels somewhat sad to pull the cut flower patch apart and get rid of all the annuals. But at the same time I’ve planted lots of seeds and bulbs which bring with it the hope of new flowers in the spring and kept me busy as I was missing seeing my customers. It has been a month to reflect on the season and what has worked well and not so well. To spend more time with my family instead of dashing to the garden to ‘just do something for a minute’ that turns into half an hour! We had a lovely October holidays where I could spend time with the girls doing all the things life seems too hectic for these days, baking, painting, making the Christmas cake, bike rides and leafy walks. I got a chance to be busy in the kitchen for an important birthday too!

November will bring the end of the planting and clearing up the garden, a much anticipated holiday where I won’t have to worry at all about the garden when I am away! Then it will be back to make some lovely Christmas wreaths. Doesn’t time fly!

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